Southampton Press Article
Author: Laurie Pitcher
Winter is far from over in the North Country and the farmers are worried because this was to be the week they usually start planting. But the fields are still covered in ice and snow and puddles that have nowhere to
go. Frozen ice clings to rock walls, blue in color and beautiful. I am having brunch overlooking the St. Lawrence River (I can see Canada from where I sit) which was still frozen a few weeks ago they say. Where there is no snow and ice there is mud and plenty of it and I have the feeling the mud room usually located off the kitchen was created by someone who lives around here. But the locals are optimistic and the sap is running from the maple trees regardless of what is happening on the ground. The students at St. Lawrence University think there is a heat wave because it is almost 50 degrees today. Well, compared to one winter temperature of minus 40...it is a heat wave! For kicks the college students go outside in the dead of winter and throw hot water into the air to see it change instantly into snow. Sometimes they just spit to see the same effect!
The St. Lawrence River is super clean because of something called the Zebra Mussell which is able to filter River water making it pure enough to drink. I learned this fun fact while watching the River flow before me. The sun is out and the water sparkles. Driving through the Adirondack Park is breathtaking as we meander along from lake to lake. The road is deserted and the lakeside towns are all but shut down. In another few months they will be bustling again but for now maybe one pub is open and you can get Mexican food at an unlikely place called Marty's.
The inn where we are staying sits back from the road; a white beacon on the bleak landscape. Inside the house is warm and instantly becomes my dream house come true. I could spend the rest of my life in the sunny kitchen looking out over the land...frozen or not. The woodworking inside the house is oak. The windows are huge. On the dining room table sits a single silver candlestick with a pale yellow taper, next to some fresh flowers. There is a thin silver vase in the kitchen with a sprig of fresh pussy willow. An optimistic sign that spring will come soon. I come to find out that the owner of the inn coached my brother-in-law in wrestling at St. Lawrence. It is a small world after all. He and his wife raised seven children here. I will ask them if I can make a reservation for every time I come up here during the next three years. I am instantly at home here and never want to leave. The down comforter has the be six inches thick! Everywhere you look in the house there is something beautiful or interesting to look at. The stained glass transoms between the living room and dining room catch the late afternoon light magically.
Late Sunday afternoon we visited a sugar shack where they were making maple syrup. (It was either that or the local brewery and syrup won out)! Three local guys in super muddy boots worked hard to boil down the sap. We learn that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and are amazed! Freezing nights followed by daytime temperatures of 40 degrees and over will cause the sap to run. Some people still tap the trees and hang the buckets from the bark, but others run miles and miles of tubing downhill to collect the liquid gold. The steam in the shack was so thick we could hardly see each other. The guys gave us samples of the syrup they just made...still warm from the vat! Unbelievable.
It's a long drive up here but well worth the road trip, for you feel like you are far, far away from home. I love the way it is so quiet here. I love exploring new places. I love the fact that the place where we had brunch makes their own hot sauce and their own ketchup. I hope for the sake of all the nice people we've met who live up here in the North Country, that spring arrives soon for them. I can tell they are more than ready.